Washington State Football: Connor Halliday to Start Against Utah

Kip ArneyCorrespondent INovember 16, 2011

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Backup quarterbacks Connor Halliday #12, David Gilbertson #4, and Jeff Tuel #10 of the Washington State Cougars signal in a play against the UCLA Bruins at the Rose Bowl on October 8, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 28-25.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Last Saturday, freshman quarterback Connor Halliday may have saved the game, the season and maybe head coach Paul Wulff's job, leading the Washington State Cougars to a 37-27 victory over Arizona State.

His reward is his first collegiate start this coming Saturday against Utah, in the Cougars' final home game of the season.

Against ASU, Halliday entered the game on the third series and never relinquished his post, going 27-for-36 for 494 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Not a bad way to start your collegiate career.

He was named the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Week.

Is starting him the right move? I don't think Paul Wulff has any other choice.

The only factor that would cause Wulff not to start him is the fact that Saturday's game is Senior Day at Washington State.

That means Marshall Lobbestael, who has started eight of 10 games this season, will watch from the sidelines, at least in the onset.

Halliday was not meant to finish the game against ASU; but when his first pass was an 85-yard touchdown to Marquess Wilson, he was given the chance to keep playing, and he never gave it up.

This is definitely what the fans want to see; but how long of a leash does Halliday get?

I'm a little skeptical that Saturday was one of those situations where a player doesn't have time to think about playing and is just thrust into a role and has that one magical day. Not trying to discredit everything Halliday did—but it's almost unfair that he set the bar so high for himself and it will be very difficult for him to duplicate.

Lobbestael had a similar start to his career, as well.

Back in 2008 against Portland State, Lobbestael came in as the third string quarterback and threw touchdown passes on his first two possessions before finishing the game 9-for-12 for 149 yards and zero interceptions. Lobbestael was also named the conference's Player of the Week.

Obviously, that's different than what Halliday did by a long shot both in numbers and quality of opponent; but you can't ignore the similarities.

The following week, Lobbestael faced then-No. 22 ranked Oregon and proceeded to show freshmen mistakes in a 63-14 blowout loss.

Utah is not Oregon—not by a long shot—but it won't be a cake walk either

Utah comes in with the No. 1 scoring defense in the conference and has beaten UCLA and Oregon State, two teams that Washington State has lost to.

Utah also has the second-best passing efficiency defense and leads the conference with 14 interceptions this year. Their red zone defense is stubborn as well allowing opponents a conference low 27 trips inside the 20-yard line and of those 27, have only given up 13 touchdowns.

Utah has not been in any close games this season. They win by an average of 22 points (six games) and lose by an average of 18 (four games), and only one game was within 10 points when they lost to USC 23-14 over two months ago.

And yet this game only has Utah as the favorite by a field goal.

Should the Cougars come out victorious, they'll just be a win away from bowl eligibility and their five wins this season will equal their total over the past three years.

I cracked the joke after Saturday's victory over ASU that the Hallidays came early this year.

Time to see if they'll stay late.